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In School Days

From The Birmingham Age-Herald, March 11, 1913.
 By John Greenleaf Whittier.
 

 Still sits the schoolhouse by the road,
     A ragged beggar sunning;
 Around it still the sumachs grow,
     And blackberry vines are running.
 
 Within, the master’s desk is seen,
     Deep scarred by raps official;
 The warping floor, the battered seats,
     The jack knife’s carved initial.
 
 The charcoal frescoes on the wall;
     Its door’s worn sill, betraying
 The feet that, creeping slow to school
     Went storming out to playing.
 
 Long years ago a winter sun
     Shone over it at setting;
 Lit up its western window panes,
     And low eaves icy fretting.
 
 It touched the tangled golden curls,
     And brown eyes full of grieving,
 Of one who still her steps delayed
     When all the school was leaving.
 
 For near her stood the little boy
     Her childish favor singled;
 His cap pulled low upon a face
     Where pride and shame were mingled.
 
 Pushing with restless feet the snow
     To right and left, he lingered—
 As restlessly her tiny hands
     The blue checked apron fingered.
 
 He saw her lift her eyes; he felt
     The soft hand’s light caressing,
 And heard the tremble of her voice,
     As if a fault confessing.
 
 “I’m sorry that I spelt the word;
     I hate to go above you,
 Because,”—the brown eyes lower fell—
     “Because, you see, I love you!”
 
 Still memory to gray haired man
     That sweet child face is showing,
 Dear girl! The grasses on her grave
     Have forty years been growing!
 
 He lives to learn in life’s hard school
     How few who pass above him
 Lament their triumph and his loss,
     Like her—because they love him.